Clinical Negligence Case Study – Avoidable Injury in Psychiatric Unit
Our client, in her early 40’s, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to concerns over her safety. She was suicidal and was of extremely high risk of causing herself injury through acts of self-harm.
Over the course of approximately 6 months our client was able to carry out multiple acts of self-harm due to a lack of being appropriately risk assessed and a lack of a suitable care plan. Her level of observation was not sufficiently reviewed or updated meaning she was left unsupervised for long periods of time. Throughout the duration of her admission and despite her level of risk, our client was able to self-harm on nearly 100 occasions, including ligaturing in excess of 40 times, cutting herself and swallowing batteries from devices such as TV remotes and vaping devices. She required hospital treatment more than once.
After approximately 6 months on the unit, our client managed to abscond. She was eventually located several hours later and returned to the unit. Upon return she was not searched, nor had her bag checked, and she was able to return to her room. In her bag were two lighters she had purchased whilst away from the unit. Staff failed to follow local hospital guidelines, requiring all patients returning from leave to be searched, for contraband items that may cause harm, e.g. blades, drugs and lighters.
Later that evening our client used a lighter to set fire to her pyjama top, which ignited easily, and she was enveloped in flames. She was taken to hospital where she was admitted to a specialist burns unit.
She suffered burns to both hands, her left arm and shoulder, her chest and upper breast. Whilst debridement surgery was thought likely, ultimately this was avoided. She attended weekly dressing changes at the burns unit for 6 weeks. Her burns healed well, but she was left with scarring to the affected areas. The scarring varied from sections where they were noticeable at a conversational distance, to scars that were visible closer up. She found the ordeal extremely painful and traumatic.
The claim was settled out of court for the sum of £20,000.00 by our specialist clinical negligence solicitor, David Gabell.
If you or someone you know has suffered from potential clinical negligence, we are available to discuss a potential claim for compensation, on a free, no obligation basis contact us on 01603 620508.
This article was produced on the 24th January 2020 by our Medical Negligence & Inquests team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.